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Whistleblowers denied role in Sizewell nuclear leaks investigation

by Shut Down Sizewell | 20.07.2009 12:28 | Ecology | Energy Crisis | Health | Cambridge

Press statement from the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign about the 22 July Special Meeting of Sizewell A & B Stakeholders Group to investigate the Cooling Pond Leak at Sizewell A nuclear reactor on 7 January 2007.

Contact: Peter Lanyon
for the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign
Phone: 01603 722898


17 July 2009

Whistle-blowers are denied a role in Sizewell Investigation

When the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign (the Campaign) recently exposed the
serious breaches of safety regulations and operator errors involved in the 2007
leak of over 40,000 gallons of radioactive contaminated water at Sizewell A
nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast, they expected their consultants
Large & Associates to have a role in the ensuing investigation.

However, the Sizewell A and B Stakeholders Group (SSG), which is arranging a
meeting in public for “a sober assessment of the facts and consequences”,
will have on the platform only representatives from the Nuclear Decommissioning
Authority, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), the Environment Agency
and Magnox Electric (now Magnox South) the operators of Sizewell A. John Large
of Large & Associates whom the Campaign engaged to uncover the facts about the
leak is not to be invited to contribute to the SSG’s assessment.

After the incident of 2007, Magnox staff persuaded SSG members that they had
done their best after the unexpected failure of a pipe circulating cooling
water to the ponds where hot and highly radioactive spent fuel is stored.
However, Magnox failed to inform the SSG of just how serious the incident had
been: that the 10,000 or more gallons that had discharged into the marine
environment was untreated being an unauthorised and not the ‘authorised’
discharge Magnox had implied to the SSG; it omitted to mention that
nuclear-safety critical alarm systems were either not working, had not been
properly commissioned, or had been ignored; and if it had not been for the
quite by chance reporting by sub contractor of flooding in the nearby laundry
area, the incident could have cascaded into a radioactive release involving the
ignition and atmospheric dispersion of about 60 tonnes of highly radioactive
spent fuel in the leaking and draining down fuel pond.

Even though the NII identified just how the incident could have cascaded
uncontrolled into a very serious fuel fire, massive radioactive release with
serious and possibly dire radiological consequences for off-site members of
public, it also failed to advise the SSG of this. In its hitherto secret
report on the incident, obtained by Large & Associates for the Campaign, the
NII is highly critical of Magnox staff noting that they had “made
significant mistakes which call into question their suitability to carry out
their roles”; that the nuclear safety control arrangements and its
implementation were “inadequate”; that a vital alarm system in the pond
area “had never been commissioned”; and that there was “an issue
regarding the suitability of people to control operations on site”. None of
these concerns were expressed to SSG members and, particularly, even though the
Magnox had seriously breached several of its nuclear safety site licence
conditions, the NII opted not to prosecute giving one reason for this being
that it would require a lot of extra work at a time when its own “resources
are stretched”.

So for its forthcoming “sober assessment of the facts and consequences”
meeting of 22 July the SSG is providing a platform to those parties who in the
past may have been somewhat economic in conveying the full facts of the January
2007 incident, whilst denying any meaningful involvement to the Shut Down
Sizewell Campaign’s own consultants Large & Associates whose investigation
threw open the hitherto hidden facts of the incident.

The Campaign notes that the constitution of the SSG requires it to ‘act as a
conduit for two-way information provision and flow’ and to ‘provide
independent interpretation of information’. The exclusion of Large &
Associates from the SSG investigation is completely counter to the SSG’s own
constitution and, as shown by the previous dearth of information supply to the
SSG from Magnox and the NII, contributions solely from these two parties to the
present SSG investigation is unlikely to provide a sound basis for an
‘independent interpretation’ of the facts underlying the 2007 incident.

Charles Barnett, Chairman of the Campaign, says: “If it had not been for
Large & Associates’s expertise and persistence, the true extent of the
sloppiness of the safety arrangements at this ancient and dilapidated nuclear
station would never have emerged. The Campaign’s job is to keep the Sizewell
stations up to the mark on nuclear safety, at least until we can get rid of the
things. Concealing their dangers, as appears to have happened, may instead risk
landing us with more of the same.”

John Large of Large & Associates noted “Throughout our investigation we
maintained an independent and unbiased approach which revealed some very
disturbing shortcomings leading up to the 2007 incident – I believe that the
SSG’s own investigation would benefit from a similar independent approach so
I cannot understand the reason why we and the Campaign should be excluded from
the proceedings”.


Charles Barnett: 01728 648300

Peter Lanyon: 01603 722898
p.lanyon [at]

John Large: 020 83172860
largeassociates [at]

Attachments: Summary Report by Large and Associates: Sizewell A –
Cooling Pond Recirculation Pipe Failure Incident of 7 January 2007, Assessment
of the NII Decision Making Process

Correspondence between the Campaign and SSG, 12-13 July 2009

Further Info: Full copies of the Large & Associates report, the NII
Preliminary Report and correspondence may be directly accessed at

Sizewell Stakeholder Group constitution is available

Date and Place of SSG Special Meeting:
Wednesday, 22 July 2009, 7 pm at Aldeburgh Community Centre

by Shut Down Sizewell
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